Budget conscious? Skip the restaurant

By Jim Romanoff

For The Associated Press

A family meal for four at a restaurant can be prohibitively expensive these days. But so can a home cooked meal, especially when it’s for a special occasion.

Not the case with this meatloaf supper, a nice Mother’s Day meal that can be prepared for under $20.

As a bonus, it’s easy enough for dad and the kids to cook and the recipes make enough for a family of four to get two meals for the price of one.


The real trick is the jarred salsa used to moisten the meatloaf while adding several layers of flavor with tomatoes, peppers and onions.

For a simple side dish, economical frozen green beans are combined with minced garlic and sliced red bell pepper, then simmered in sweet and pungent balsamic vinegar.

Finally, for dessert a simple crisp gets sweetness and a complex flavor from apple butter.

Salsa meatloaf

This recipe works with ground turkey as well. Select a salsa that has the right level of heat to suit your family.

Start to finish: 1 hour 15 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 8

1 large egg


2 pounds 80 percent lean ground beef

1 3/4 cups mild or medium chunky tomato salsa (divided)

3/4 cup rolled oats

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a shallow baking dish or coat it with cooking spray.


In a mixing bowl, beat the egg with a fork. Add ground beef, 1 1/4 cups of the salsa, oats, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix together well. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish and form it into a 9-by-5-inch loaf.

In a small bowl, stir together the oil and remaining 1/2 cup of salsa. Spread the mixture over the meatloaf.

Bake for 60 to 70 minutes, or until the meatloaf is no longer pink at the center and an instant read thermometer registers 160 F when inserted at the center.


Vinegary green beans with red pepper

Balsamic vinegar gets complex flavors from aging for several years in wooden barrels. But other vinegars, such as those made from red wine or sherry, would work, too. The recipe doubles easily, though you will want to extend the cooking times by a few minutes.

Start to finish: 25 minutes (15 minutes active)

Servings: 6


1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced

2 teaspoons minced garlic

16-ounce bag frozen whole green beans

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1/2 teaspoon dried basil (optional)

1/2 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


In a large skillet with a cover, heat the oil over high. Add red pepper and saute until they are beginning to soften, about 1 minute. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute longer.

Stir in the green beans, vinegar, basil (if using) and salt. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let simmer gently until the beans are very tender, about 15 minutes. Check occasionally and add a small amount of water if necessary. Season with pepper.


Apple butter crisp

Apple butter gives this dessert a double hit of apple flavor while adding sweetness and spice as well. Look for it with the jams and jellies at your market. For convenience you can make this crisp a day ahead, then reheat it while eating dinner. It’s even more scrumptious when topped with whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla frozen yogurt.

Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (20 minutes active)

Servings: 8

1 cup all-purpose flour


1/3 cup light brown sugar 3 tablespoons canola oil

6 large apples, such as McIntosh, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced.

2/3 cup apple butter

1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a small bowl, combine the flour, sugar and oil. Using your fingertips or a fork, work the mixture together until crumbly. Set aside.

In a large bowl, toss together the apples, apple butter and cranberries. Transfer to a 7-by-11-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the reserved flour mixture evenly over the top.

Bake the dish for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the topping is browned and the apples are tender when pierced with a knife.

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